Categorized | Opinion

Tort Reform Caps in Tennessee

By David Peel

If you are severely injured in Tennessee due to the fault of another person, you know you have a right to pursue a legal claim, or sue in a lawsuit to recover compensation for your serious disabling injuries and your pain and suffering.

Even if you are not the type naturally drawn to making a legal injury claim, you probably assume you always have the right to sue for many millions of dollars if your injuries are catastrophic.

But things have changed in Tennessee.

Tort reform has capped your ability to recover large non-economic (pain and suffering) damages, in even very serious cases, to only $750,000.

But wait, isn’t there a “catastrophic exception”?

Yes, and it allows up to $1,000,000 in pain and suffering. But, there are only four, and they are too easily summarized:

1) Paraplegia or quadriplegia;

2) Amputation of both hands, both feet, or one of each;

3) Third degree burns over 40% of the body or 40% of the face;

4) Wrongful death of a parent leaving a minor child.

Most folks can agree that these are all “catastrophic.”  Notice, though, what is not listed above: wrongful loss of one hand, total blindness, wrongful loss of one leg, total loss of sexual ability, wrongful removal of both breasts, or even the loss of your own only child.

Medical bills are not capped by the tort reform legislation, but that is often not the biggest part of a case.

If a lady is misdiagnosed by her doctor and loses both breasts, the medical bills are hardly significant compared to the unnecessary and disfiguring loss. Our state legislators have decided that her losses in that case are worth a MAXIMUM of $750,000 in pain, suffering, disfigurement and emotional distress.

If a young boy is negligently hit by a careless truck driver on his bike and loses his leg, our state legislators have decided that his losses—never playing like the other kids, using a prosthetic leg, etc.—in that case are worth a MAXIMUM of $750,000 in pain, suffering, disfigurement and emotional distress.

If a sick child is given an injection that was negligently infected with fungal meningitis, and dies, his loss of life is worth less than many homes in Collierville, Germantown or Nashville.

When corporations and insurance companies do not fear a big verdict, there is little incentive to resolve the case and even less reason to be more careful in the first place. Money cannot make these losses right, but compensation allows the injured parties to decide for themselves how to fulfill their altered lives. If you disagree with these limits, let your state legislator know.

Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, work place incidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through wherein other articles may be accessed.

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November 2012
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